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U-46 Board makes call on variety of issues


By Seth Hancock
  The majority of the Board of Education in School District U-46 elected to deny the public access to information when it voted to destroy 16 closed session recordings at its meeting on Monday, May 1.
  Donna Smith, the board’s president, continued the status quo of simply stating “confidentiality is still needed” without explaining the reason for that confidentiality. The measure passed by a 4-3 vote as board members Phil Costello and Jeanette Ward as well as outgoing board member Cody Holt voted no.
  “I believe that we should be having a conversation on what parts of those can be released to the public, and therefore I don’t want them destroyed,” Ward said. The majority ignored that request.
  Not only has the public been denied access to any closed session tapes, board members had been denied access as well as the majority refused to allow Ward access when she was newly elected until a state law was approved by the General Assembly clarifying that elected officials always had the right to access such information.
  The board did unanimously approve two curriculum proposals, one to update driver education and the other to develop a Regional Career Pathway welding program.
  Kinasha Brown, coordinator of career and technical education, said the welding program is a historic one as this will be the “first time this is being done in the state” with a program that offers access to four total districts as it also includes Algonquin-based D300, Burlington-based D301 and St. Charles-based D303.
  The program is expected to start in the fall of 2018 and the first update on the program’s outcomes will come in the spring of 2021. The district will offer a new course, fundamentals of welding, and will change the names of the current metals technology I and II courses to welding I and II.
  The district has a metals technology lab at Elgin High School currently and state and federal taxpayer funds will be used to update it with equipment, supplies and construction costs totaling just over $1 million.
  Brown said that through Kane County Regional analysis they questioned “why don’t we build robust programs, but we allow all the districts… to take advantage of that” in the county. All four district’s will share the costs while both U-46 and D300 will house the program.
  Costello said he’s “very excited about this opportunity…. I think this is exactly what this district needs.” He also asked about starting salaries in the welding field which the district said range from $16 to $23 an hour.
  Board member Traci Ellis asked about priority placement in the program which U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said would be given to U-46 students, but open spots would be offered to students at the other districts. Board member Veronica Noland asked if it would be open to students from all U-46 high schools and if the taxpayers will fund their transportation to Elgin, and Sanders said that is the plan.
  The driver education proposal was to purchase new textbooks updated with new state laws that included teaching about distracted driving and how to deal with law enforcement during a traffic stop. Currently a student must be 16 years old to enroll, but now 15 year old students will be allowed.
  The student fee for driver education will be reduced from $345 to $332 as students will no longer be required to purchase a textbook. The initial cost for the proposal is $13,194 while there’s an annual cost of $18,705 which Tracey Jakaitis, student wellness coordinator, said is covered by student fees.
  Also approved 7-0 was a $78,705 three-year contract renewal with SolarWinds coming out of the education fund, a $378,825 bid proposal with Schroeder Asphalt Services Inc. from the capital projects and operations and maintenance funds and $3.9 million in itemized bills.
  The final 2016-2017 school calendar was also unanimously approved which because of one snow day being used the last day of school for students will be after Memorial Day on Tuesday, May 30.

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